“I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy.”
~ Marie Curie
We prize the image of the rugged individual. Perhaps that’s more of a male-influenced ideal, but it helps me to remember that none of us really do it alone. Sometimes I have to remind myself that help can come from unexpected places.
In 1920, the radium pioneer Marie Curie was working in her laboratory in Paris. Several years earlier, in 1911, she had had a bitter introduction to the power of the press with the muck-raking caused by the divorce of her assistant, Paul Langevin. Curie had been named as being involved with Langevin, and was labeled a homewrecker. Her gains as a researcher and a scientist in a man’s world were called into question. The effort to protect herself from the onslaught was so great that it took she became a recluse for a year to recover.
A Friend Among Foes
Routinely refusing interviews, Curie could not have had much trust when she granted an interview to American journalist Missy Mattingly in 1920. Curie discussed the problem of affording radium to continue her research, Mattingly replied, “But you out to have all the resources in the world to continue with your research. Someone must see to that.” Curie replied, “But who?” She was talking to a woman of influence and vision. “The women of America,” said Mattingly.
The price for one gram of radium was $100,000, and Mattingly, using her connections and influence. After a national campaign, Curie went to the United States to receive the radium from President Warren G. Harding.
By her efforts, Mattingly helped Curie immeasurably, and the two women went on to have a life-long friendship. Sometimes we don’t know where help will come from. But it does come.